Time is running out for the city of Missoula to review and approve a cable franchise project that would compete with the city’s only cable TV provider in Charter-Spectrum, as a new company looks to invest $ 46 million in the infrastructure to complete the task.
TDS Metrocom was one of two new cable companies to contact the city and express interest in the Missoula market, along with Vast. However, Vast never completed the process and TDS wants to start operations and complete the approval process before the end of the year.
City attorney Jim Nugent said Monday that TDS’s application marked the first time Missoula had a competitive cable franchise in the market. The competition could benefit in pricing, just as it did at Missoula Montana Airport on ticket prices.
“One of TDS’s concerns is whether it will get timely services (from the city),” Nugent said. “They fear they can keep moving forward. They hope to have that approval and the cable TV franchise by the end of the calendar year. “
TDS Metrocom contacted the city earlier this year to begin the franchise process. The contract is pending approval by the full city council and, if awarded, would allow TDS to compete directly with Charter.
But the city council is not known for its speed. He first heard the request two weeks ago and is not expected to take any action for another two weeks. Typically, city council has a week of public comment before voting, but not in this case.
The board’s only consideration is whether TDS has the financial capacity to do the job ahead. Nugent said city consultants believe they are.
“If you’ve read the report, the consultants see no basis on which the city can turn down TDS’s candidacy due to a lack of financial credentials,” Nugent said. “We had a lot of contact with TDS.
As the demand marks the first time a competitor has sought to enter the market, Nugent said Missoula has three small cable providers at a time. However, they refused to merge and new technology made them all obsolete.
The city has deep ordinances regulating cable franchises, but they are old, he added.
“Usually you don’t see a lot of action in this area,” Nugent said. “We have informed everyone, including Charter-Spectrum, TDS and Vast, that there may be three participating companies. We don’t expect Vast to follow further.
TDS was recently approved for a franchise in Spokane and Billings.
“The real thing these cable companies are looking for is high speed internet,” Nugent said. “Under federal law and the FCC, they can step in the door and gain access to the right-of-way by having a cable TV franchise.”
TDS would also provide high speed Internet, entertainment and telephone services if approved by the city. It would take about 24 to 48 months to build the $ 46 million system.
Cable TV Provider TDS Seeks To Enter Missoula Market And Install $ 46 Million Fiber Optic System